This blog is intended to inspire and encourage by looking at the positive side of life!
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Why Saint Patrick's Day Matters! March 17th
When George Washington took office in 1789, there were 30,000 Catholics in America. John Adams said they were "scarce as earthquakes." But by 1850, Catholics had become—and remain, today—the country's largest religious denomination. One factor explains this growth: immigration. Since the Irish were the first immigrants to significantly impact Catholic American life, and with St. Patrick's Day approaching, this week offers a good moment to examine their experiences and their impact.
Perhaps no immigrant group has been a greater force on American Catholicism, both in numbers and leadership. Irish immigration had been steady since colonial times, but until the 1840s it was mainly Protestant. By 1800, about 80 percent of Ireland was Catholic, but before the infamous "Penal Laws" were removed, they couldn't vote or hold office, and many professions were closed to them.
Between 1780 and 1840, Ireland's population nearly doubled. Even in the pre-Famine years, poverty was widespread. The social reformer Frederick Douglassvisited in 1845. A former slave, he commented: "of all the places to witness human misery, ignorance, degradation, filth and wretchedness, an Irish hut is preeminent." The peasant diet consisted almost entirely of potatoes, a fairly nutritious food.